Support network expands as we continue to be blessed with abundance of donations

AGM 2023 report graphicThe work of three of our partner organisations came under the spotlight when nearly 50 volunteers, friends and supporters attended the Food Hub’s 2023 Annual General Meeting on 10th October at Purley United Reformed Church.

Guest speakers took us behind the scenes at Croydon Refugee Day Centre and the Happy Baby Community – both supported by the Food Hub – and the Big Love Foundation, which provides free legal advice at Purley Food Stop’s Friday sessions at Old Lodge Lane Baptist Church.

The evening was led by Trevor Jones, Chair of Trustees, and included reports from the Trustees, the Management Committee and Treasurer, and also marked the publication of the 2022/2023 Annual Report.

Reports of each presentation are given below, and video clips of speakers and the opening and closing prayers can be viewed on our YouTube channel here.

Management Committee:
Louise Willmer

Louise WillmerMuch of the focus of the first speaker, Management Committee Co-Chair Louise Willmer, was on the recurring question of whether to reintroduce the pre-Covid practice of clients visiting Purley URC to collect their food parcels in person.

Responding to a question from volunteer driver Graham, Louise said:

Space is the key thing. Purley URC is a listed building, and both Russell [Rev Russell Furley-Smith, the Minister] and Judith [Judith Johnson, Church Secretary at the time] both said how they would have loved to have taken all the back pews out and then that could have been our whole area. That would have been wonderful.

But because we are listed the implications are quite hard on us. All we could be allowed to do is to move the pews forward in the back area, so you would not actually create very much space. And we couldn’t put the pews anywhere else, there’s no storage facility.

The porch [is also a problem]. I remember how crowded it was. We’ve had suggestions that perhaps clients could line up. But not outside, that’s not very fair on the dignity of our clients.

All I can say is that we are unique in this part of the borough doing this service. Some of our clients just can’t get out. I think it is quite nice we are part of a system where we offer them that delivery service for the first four weeks and when it is right we give them the financial support to do independent shopping at the Food Stops. We’re also giving financial support to the Food Stops and food as well.

[People coming here] might be a possibility, but this is where we are at the present. We will keep it under review.

We know that Covid is still around, and [with a hybrid arrangement] some of the drivers would be very vulnerable sitting in that small space in the porch with loads of clients coming in. I don’t want to put those people at risk.

In one respect this church is lovely. It’s central and visible, but there are so many issues involved we need to think about.

Happy Baby Community:
Sue Balmer,
Co-Development Director

Sue Balmer, Happy Baby CommunityThe Happy Baby Community works with asylum seeker mothers who are either five months pregnant or they have children under three years old within the M25, but we also now work in Crawley because of the Gatwick hotels.

Happy Baby South was started in November 2018 by Jo Doherty, our next speaker, with free use of a church hall and £1,000 from the Quakers. Purley Food Hub was one of our very early funders.

We’ve grown hugely over the past five years and are now a registered charity with a spend last year of £450,000. We’re looking after 1,700 women and a couple of thousand children.

Your funding is for the Thornton Heath group, where last week we had 50 mothers and 70 children, mainly from hotels in Croydon, Crystal Palace and Thornton Heath.

We took on our first staff member in 2019 and now have 12 staff, 50 doulas – birth companions who work with us part time – and 180 volunteers. We supported 560 births last year.

We keep in contact with our mums through texting – we sent 70,000 last year! – to tell them about the online community that we have twice a week for English classes and educational help with children’s health, women’s health, that sort of thing. We run five groups a week now in Dalston, Acton, Stratford, Thornton Heath and Crawley.

The perinatal service has the 50 doulas who support any mother who needs a birth companion. Once a mum has had her baby, we train our women to call them and provide ongoing support.

Our strategy for the next year is to carry on doing what we’re doing. We provide trauma-informed services, we are sustainable and we take every single referral. No-one is turned away. That is huge, because many places don’t take an immediate referral. But we will. We are volunteer led, and will remain so.

Croydon Refugee Day Centre:
Jo Doherty, Manager

Jo Doherty, CRDC

Firstly, thank you very much to Purley Food Hub for your really generous support of Croydon Refugee Day Centre. I only joined as manager in March but I know that you’ve been supporting us for a very long time.

Croydon Refugee Day Centre’s vision is that asylum seekers and refugees are supported not only with their basic needs, but also helped to integrate into and thrive in the UK.

We currently have three main projects:

  • a Practical Support Centre, which runs on Tuesdays, where we welcome people and provide them with second hand clothing, toiletries, food parcels and household goods.
  • a Wednesday Welcome Project, where people come for a variety of activities including English lessons and practice. We have dance classes at the moment and we’re about to start sewing.
  • an Outreach Project that goes into mainly two hotels in Croydon, providing families and individuals with one-to-one support. We also have some welfare casework support that runs across all three projects.

Over the first six months of this year we supported approximately 500 adults and 400 children from Croydon and nearby areas. The generous donation from the Purley Food Hub enables us to provide food parcels. These are mainly for people in dispersal accommodation, so not those in hotels under the asylum system. The hotels are catered – not brilliantly, but they are.

We’ve also started a new food voucher project this year with a new funder. This is aimed at asylum seekers because the situation with food in the hotels is very difficult for families. The vouchers give them some choice in what they eat.

At the last estimate there were almost 1,100 asylum seekers in hotels across Croydon, and many more in dispersal accommodation.

People staying in hotels get basic meals, basic toiletries, and approximately £9 a week to meet all their other needs – travel, clothing, school provision, uniform etc. So it’s a really tiny amount.

Those living in dispersal accommodation are at the next stage of the asylum system where they will be in shared accommodation. They get approximately £45 a week, but they need to buy all their own food from that. That’s about 58 percent of the standard Universal Credit rate.

This is what the people we support are facing at the moment. They’re also facing the increased hostile environment created by the sort of rhetoric and laws that are coming into play in the UK.

Because of the streamlined asylum process now coming in, over the next couple of months there may be several hundred people from the hotels in Croydon who are given leave to remain, and then evicted at very short notice.

It is very likely that some of these people will end up street homeless. Our organisation will try to support them over that transition, although we’re not going to be able to prevent that.

I read on the front of your Annual Report “While we give thanks for all that God has provided since then, 10 years of a food bank is really not something to celebrate. There should be a righteous anger that there is still a need and that the need is increasing.”

I would echo that for our work. But set against this, we’ve got an amazing group of 60 to 70 volunteers. Some are giving 15 hours-plus a week to support people. They do an enormous amount with very, very little.

And we’ve got a wider network of organisations and individuals in Croydon and beyond who are generous, who support us financially and through in-kind donations, like yourselves, and who care and offer support in whatever way they can. So I want to end by saying thank you very much for your continuing support.

Kevoirdo’s Big Love Foundation:
Patti Boyle, CEO and Founder

Patti Boyle, Kevoirdo's Big Love FoundationThe Big Love Foundation was set up in 2012 and launched from Purley Baptist Church as a memorial to our youngest son Kevin who died the previous year.

Our fundamental aim is to provide timely and effective legal advice and support to our most disadvantaged and vulnerable.

We deal with a wide range of cases from domestic violence, child arrangement orders, Family Court and Court of Protection proceedings to special educational needs, disability rights and appeals against DWP decisions. The message is ‘whatever the problem we can help you through’.

The need for help with food is often the tip of the iceberg for people in crisis. The Food Hub and Purley Food Stop are both lifelines for those in need, and we both have systems in place for giving them access to services and support they might not even know existed.

As a ticket partner for Purley Food Hub, Big Love is able to offer emergency practical as well as legal and emotional support to people in crisis. As part of the community team at the Food Stop, along with Julia Lee, the Food Hub’s lead Client Support Volunteer, and representatives from Croydon Council and the DWP, we are able to advocate effectively on their behalf.

As well as vigorously supporting our clients, Big Love takes an active part in community events. Every Christmas we support Christmas Lunch for Care Leavers, Toys for Children and warm shawls or handmade bedsocks for our elders. At the Food Stop this Christmas looks like being the busiest ever.

The relationship between the Food Hub and Purley Food Stop is a great example of how local charities work together. The Food Hub feeds the tributaries that feed our wider communities. The Food Hub and Food Stop are conduits for feeding God’s people – not just with daily sustenance but mentally, emotionally and spiritually too.

Thank you to each and every one of you who plays a role in enabling that work.

Financial Report:
Joanna Walker, Treasurer

The main headline is that we continue to be blessed with an abundance of donations, both in terms of cash and food.

We keep quite detailed records of the items that come in and go out, and we calculate that the food donations during the year were worth around £145,000. We also received just over £105,000 in grants and donations, a 60 per cent increase on 2021/2022.

Almost two thirds of donations came from individuals, up more than 70 per cent at £65,000. Another £12,000 came from our Christmas appeal and we received nearly £10,000 in Gift Aid.

We have always tried to keep the running costs to a minimum but these also increased, from £13,000 to more than £21,000. More details are on page 5 of the Annual Report.

Of course our greatest asset is our volunteers and their time contribution is substantial, but traditionally that is not included in the accounts.

The continuing generosity of our supporters has enabled us to meet increased demand whilst maintaining the financial support of our partner organisations and also take on support of a new organisation, Fieldway Family Centre in New Addington.

So we continue to be grateful to everyone who’s supported us and to God that our financial stores continue to overflow and we are able to fulfil the mission of the Food Hub.

Closing Remarks:
Trevor Jones,
Chair of Trustees

TrevorJones, Chair of Trustees

Trevor told how he had been listening to a radio programme about 17th century radical Gerard Winstanley, who founded a movement called the Diggers and took a stand against the injustices of the day, particularly land ownership and exploitation of people.

Winstanley spoke strongly about the need for people to eat together and work together and share what they have, taking his inspiration straight from the Bible, particularly the Acts of the Apostles, where the early Christians shared what they had with each other.

Trevor continued: “So I’m very glad that we at Purley Food Hub are able to support organisations such as the ones we’ve heard from tonight.

“We have seen people and communities coming together, working together and eating together. It is such a vital thing to do.

“I’m very pleased that we at Food Hub are able to do that, so I really want to thank all our supporters for what they do: by volunteering, through financial giving, through donations of food.

“I want to thank the Management Committee and others for all they do, and all our wonderful volunteers who sort and pack and deliver. Without their help we really couldn’t do what we do.

“And I want to thank my fellow Trustees for their support. They’re a great bunch, and I’m really thankful and privileged to work with them.

“Thank you everybody for what you do for Purley Food Hub, and here’s to another year where we’re going to be needed, I’m afraid.”